I thought I had totally spoiled my first son. He was an only child for five years before his little brother came along. He got lots of attention and got away with tons of stuff. I did a terrible job teaching him to clean up his toys — or anything much, for that matter. I was basically his personal chef, a short order cook extraordinaire. My world centered on him. He pretty much had my undivided attention until his little brother came along.
But the truth is, his little brother gets away with much more than he does. As much as I spoiled my first child, I also had my eagle eye on him and scrutinized his every move. My second child is a wild child, and I let him be that way. I was more anxious about being the perfect parent with my first child. I wanted to do it right and do it well. But after years of parenting my first child (and realizing that I hadn’t totally fucked it up), I’ve been a lot more lenient with my youngest — a whole lot.
He’s almost 4 now, and he’s my last child. So not only do I let him get away with some crazy stuff and spoil the heck out of him, but I also simply don’t want him to grow up. I’m doing everything in my power to prevent it. In fact, I told him the other day that if he wants to stay 3 for longer, we can just cancel his birthday and pretend he’s 3 until next year (when he’ll turn 5, I suppose).
See? I’m a hell of a lot different when it comes to my youngest. Maybe you are too. Here are a few other things we do with our youngest kids that would have never flown with our oldest kids:
1. Your youngest kid’s first food is dirt off the doormat.
True story. And a couple of leaves too. I swear, I was shocked when I found that my son had scooted his little 5-month-old self over to our front door, and even more shocked to find that his mouth was full of every minuscule piece of dirt that had been caked into our doormat. Eww.
2. You keep the crib and high chair too long because you cry when you think of throwing them out.
I just threw out the crib that sat in our bedroom for 10 years (that my kids hardly slept in). Why? Because babies. I want them to be babies forever. And that booster seat that absolutely doesn’t fit my youngest? Still attached to the table, and not going anywhere.
3. Lollipops (and other candy bribes) are the answer to everything, and you don’t care one bit.
I have a lollipop in my purse at all times. Don’t want to get in the car to pick your brother up from school? I’ll give you a lollipop later. Won’t frigging shut the hell up during the parent-teacher conference I had to drag your cranky 2-year-old self to? Lollipop for the win.
4. An iPhone app teaches your kid colors, shapes, and the alphabet.
My first child and I spent whole afternoons reading beautiful picture books about everything under the sun. I was proud that he knew the alphabet before he turned 2.
My second child learned it even earlier, thanks to an app on the iPhone — which he figured out how to use on his own by the time he was 12 months old. Parenting for the win!
5. You aren’t so quick to wean, ditch pacifiers or bottles, or make your kid stop walking around with his blankie.
If my stubborn first child could wean from nursing, then any child could. But I’ve been in no rush to chuck any of the babyish habits my youngest has. It helps tremendously that I know they won’t last forever. In fact, now that I’m certain of it, it basically breaks my heart in two.
6. Goldfish are for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
I have picky eaters. Sometimes they go on Goldfish binges. (Pirate’s Booty comes in for a close second.) And sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. With your second child, you know that everything is just a phase, and next week your kid will be eating carrot sticks by the barrel.
7. You don’t correct your child’s baby talk.
In fact, you’ll do anything to make it last forever. For the longest time, we tried our hardest to make sure our son would always, always call lemonade “lema-lade.” We made it to 3 years and 9 months by the skin of our teeth. Too short, I tell you. I wanted him to go off to college saying it that way.
8. You don’t bring your kid to the doctor for every scratch, ache, or fever.
Today, my youngest said his heart hurt, and he thrust his hand over his chest, frowning. I had the slightest bit of concern, but then a minute later, he was running around the living room in his underwear. For a second, I was like, Should I be concerned here?
I know for certain I would have freaked if my first child said something like that and called the doctor pronto, even if he seemed fine.
9. You let your kid wreck the house and cause all manner of mayhem.
I have let my littlest one stand over the sink for an hour, pouring soap out of the dispenser and rubbing it all over the sink and himself. Why? Because silence. (And it’s soap, so he was bathing and cleaning the bathroom!)
Take all the dirty laundry out of the hamper and roll around in it? Stand at the freezer eating ice of out the ice tray and throwing the rest of it on the floor to watch it melt? All things I’ve let him do, so that I can get one second of peace around here.
10. You cry your eyes out when you realize your kid’s next birthday is coming up.
And you buy every freaking toy in the universe for him. No, I didn’t Amazon Prime my face off and buy my son a ginormous Megazord that came in a box that practically didn’t fit through the door. And shhh… Don’t tell his big brother (or the credit card company), but I think I just bought him seasons 1 to 5 of Shopkins.
Dammit. I’m really serious that if there was a way to pause time and make sure my son stays 3 1/2 forever, I would definitely do it. And as long as he asks to sit on my lap, his little body still fitting perfectly in there all curled up, I’ll linger a little longer — even though dinner is almost burning, the dishes are piled as high as the ceiling, and the floor is covered in so many toys I’m going to need to tread carefully to make it to the other side of the room without getting stabbed by a Lego or a superhero’s appendage.
No, I’ll just sit here until the house burns down because this kid is going to be my baby forever, and I mean it.